About Me

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This blog will be a record of stuff I find interesting, discover or write. Interested in family & local history, cemeteries, reading & libraries, old stuff, research & writing, photography, wine and fine dining plus lots more! Immersed in local history, fascinated by technology and social media and would like more time to spend doing the things I love!

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Remembering Cemetery Day

Alona Tester has encouraged family historians to remember Cemetery Day on 18 June. 

I have always been fascinated by cemeteries and as a teenager encourage my parents to drop into various historical cemeteries when we were travelling around including Forbes, Gulgong, Bathurst and Port Macquarie. I also remember being very impressed when I visited bushranger Ben Hall's headstone.

When I was in year 9 at High School, we had a passionate history teacher, Garrett Barry who had attended some workshops with the very innovative Lionel Gilbert

Here I am cleaning a grave,  Rouse Hill Cemetery, 1975.

My friend and I decided to do an assignment on Rouse Hill Cemetery. It was very overgrown so not only did we have to clean the sites but also transcribe them. We also visited St Paul's Anglican Church in Riverstone and copied some of the Burial Register pages.

A few pages from my cemetery assignment from Year 9.

When I was studying Local History at Armidale in the 1980s, I was very fortunate to have Lionel Gilbert as a lecturer and I cherish both copies of his books that focus on cemeteries, "A Grave look at History" and "The Last Word: Two Centuries of Australian Epitaphs."

Wherever I have travelled, I always have managed to locate interesting cemeteries to visit both within Australia and overseas. I sometimes research and write more about these for various newsletters, blogs or facebook.

In 2003 my husband Jonathan Auld and I established the Hawkesbury Cemetery Register. Over the years we have been photographing, transcribing and mapping many of the historic cemeteries in the Hawkesbury district of NSW. We have also included some of the private cemeteries on private property. These days we continue to transcribe and I also manage the Hawkesbury Cemetery Register facebook site, in my spare time, which keeps me on my toes.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

A carter and his sister-in-law ~ Trove Tuesday

Robert Belshaw 1886-1948

Our family were quite shocked when I located this newspaper article about our great Grandfather, Robert Belshaw charged with stealing a trunk with his sister in law Maud Ponting in Sydney in July 1909. 

POLICE COURTS. A CARTER & HIS SISTER-IN-LAW. Sydney Morning Herald 11 June 1909 p. 11.  

The trunk, with its contents, belonged to Alice Walford and was valued at £14. The trunk was to be delivered from the wharf at Darling Harbour after a journey. Aged in his early 20s, Robert was employed as a carrier and rather than deliver it to the Walford's at Neutral Bay he was encouraged by Maud, aged 19, to keep the trunk. Maud was also known by the name Petty, her step-father's surname. At the time Maud was employed by Alice Walford.

Maud was sentenced to one month's imprisonment however Robert's sentence of three month's imprisonment was suspended as it was his first and apparently only, offence. Due to his good character he was placed on good behaviour bond. Robert had only been married for a few years and was more than likely, pleased with the court's leniency. 

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Who was Lillian May Ponting?

Lily May Ponting was the youngest sister of our great grandmother, Florence Belshaw. She was a bit of a conundrum in our family, and much of her life is a mystery. She apparently committed suicide and I recently located some additional facts, revealing more behind the sad incident. Here is a some of Lily’s story.

She was born Lily May on 23 December 1893 at Upper Temora, a small town, north-east of the Riverina NSW. Lily was the youngest of six children of hotelkeeper Henry Ponting and Louisa Richey. Her siblings were Florence Amelia born 1886, Harry Francis 1888, Alice Maude 1890 and Phoebe Louisa 1892. The eldest child, a daughter, died in 1886.

At the time of Lily’s birth, her Mother was 29 years old, while her Father was more than twice that age, at 62. She was baptised on 8 May 1894 at Temora, and they probably lived at the hotel which was called the Bristol Arms. Just a few years after Lily’s birth, Louisa left Temora and took her children and moved to Sydney. Lily was only about 4 years old at the time. Louisa had either met Alfred Petty in Temora or moved to Sydney, as she was pregnant with his first child by December 1898. Louisa and Alfred had four sons born during six years. Alfred Arthur born 1899, Abraham ‘Abe’ Charles 1901, Henry George ‘Syd’ 1903 and Ernest William 1905. When Henry Ponting died on 3 April 1903 at Temora, Louisa and Alfred were free to marry, which they did, six months later, on 30 October 1903 in Sydney. 

Tragedy struck the family again when Harry Francis, the only Ponting boy, died 8 June 1908 just before his 20th birthday, his Mother and sisters were heartbroken. Harry was working as a labourer in Mudgee and was so unwell he was taken to District Hospital Mudgee. He died four days later as a result of enteric fever and also perforation of ulcer of the intestine. (Enteric fever is also known as typhoid and the cause is often salmonella spread by eating or contaminated food or drinking water.)

Louisa and Alfred were not together for long, as she died on 18 July 1908 in Sydney Hospital. The cause of death was malignant disease of the gall bladder. She was only 44. At the time, Lily was only 15 whilst her younger Petty half-brothers were aged between 3 and 9 years old. Although Lily’s father was Henry Ponting she was only a child when her Mother took her to Sydney. It is not known if Lily saw her father again and probably had few memories of him. Alf Petty would have been her main father-figure and she often went by the name Lily or Lilian Petty.

By this time, my Grandmother, Flo had married Robert Belshaw in Sydney on 27 October 1906 and had two children of her own, Doris and Edna, when Louisa died. Lily’s other sisters also married. Phoebe married John William Nolen in 1912, while Maud married John Joseph Moore in 1913.

Lily May Ponting 1893-1946
Courtesy State Records

As a young woman, Lily's photograph, taken in her 20s, reveals how beautiful she was. When Lily was 21 years old, she married chemist, Alfred Hynard on 18 September 1915 in Christ Church, North Sydney. Alfred was 27 at the time and although World War 1 had started the year before, he had not, and did not, enlist, although his younger brother, Percy Joseph did.  Alfred appeared to have financial difficulties and there were several appearances for bankruptcy, in 1916 and 1918. In 1916 he was living at 156 Alfred-street, North Sydney and was listed in the paper under Voluntary Sequestrations. 

The marriage did not last long and on 18 November 1920, it was dissolved by decree of the Supreme Court of NSW. Alfred was the petitioner and he applied for a dissolution of his marriage with Lily May Hynard (formerly Petty), on the ground of her misconduct with Richard Holden, or Saber, who was joined as co-respondent.  There are also a number of references to Alfred in the newspapers being tried at various courts under the Gaming and Betting Act and it is possible that he had a gambling problem.

On 9 July 1925, Lily married again. Her second husband was Harold Beverstock Williams, the son of George Henry and Marion Frances Williams, on 9 July 1925 at St Barnabas Church of England, Sydney. This marriage only lasted a couple of years when Harold petitioned Lily for divorce on the grounds of desertion for three years. This was advertised in the Sydney Mail 25 March 1931. Unusually the marriage was not dissolved by decree of the Supreme Court of NSW, until 22 August 1941, no. 1162/30. 

Lily was living at 137 Victoria Road, Darlinghurst, in 1925 and her occupation was recorded as a photographer. Phoebe Nolen, died in Prince Alfred Hospital from heart disease on 8 December 1936 aged 42 years, leaving her daughters Gladys and Dulcie orphans. There was only twelve months between sisters, Lily and Phoebe.

Petty brothers, from left, Abe Syd and Ern.

World War 2 commenced in 1939 and Lily’s half-brothers enlisted and served their country. Henry known as “Syd” had joined the Navy as a young man. He enlisted in WW2 in June 1940 and was in the A.I.F. 2/30 Bn, and his rank was Sergeant. Syd was reporting missing in Malaya and died from an illness in November 1943 in what is now known as Thailand aged 40.  According to the newspapers, his wife did not find out until 1945, two years later that he had died. He is buried at Thanbyuzayat War Cemetery.  Abe began his military service in the AIF in 1940. He died on 23 August 1944 aged 43 from dysentery as a Prisoner of War (POW) and was buried in Ambon War Cemetery in Indonesia. Her nephew, Artie Belshaw was also a casualty.  He died 21 April 1944 when his Catalina crashed near Borneo, he had only just turned 21. More about this here.

Lily Ponting

Lily possibly with Tom Baldwin

At some stage Lily began a relationship with Tom Baldwin, a poulterer, and “they lived together as man and wife.” By 1946 they were living at Camperdown. 

 The Sun  19 June 1946
Courtesy Trove

On Anzac Day in 1946, Lily and Tom attended the march. Prior to “the march she was worried over her brother, who died after being a POW for 18 months. She had said on a number of occasions that she could hear her brother calling to her.”

As the 8th Division marched, Lily had a "giddy" turn and Tom took her home. At the time they were living at 124 Pyrmont Bridge Road, Camperdown. Sometime after arriving home, she committed suicide by taking poison, cyanide which she administered herself. Tom found her dead, the following morning. Due to the nature of her death and suspicious circumstances, an inquest was held on 27 April Mr R M Stewart SM, the City Coroner.

Her sister Maud, by this time was married to Jack Hanlon, “said they lost two brothers in the war. Her sister was more attached to the one who died In Malaya, and worried over it.” Additional evidence given at the inquest stated that Lily was employed as a cleaner at Camperdown Hospital. Here she “had access to poisons which were not locked away. The Coroner returned a finding of suicide.”

Her funeral was held in the Private Chapel at 59 Parramatta Road, Annandale on the afternoon of 27 April, after the inquest.  She was buried in the Church of England Cemetery at Rookwood. Much of Lily's life is mystery, hopefully this story reveals more about her story and her poignant end. 

SUICIDE HEARD BROTHER CALLING (1946, June 19). The Sun p. 3  
IN DIVORCE. (1931, September 9). The Sydney Morning Herald p. 7
IN DIVORCE. (1920, March 31). The Sydney Morning Herald p. 8
IN BANKRUPTCY. (1918, August 8). The Sydney Morning Herald  p. 4
(1916, December 16). The Sydney Morning Herald p. 9
Nichols family tree 
Birth, death & marriages certificates
Family Notices (1946, April 27). The Sydney Morning Herald p. 29

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

The 1828 Census

I am participating in the weekly blog challenge for National Family History Month 2016 and Week 1 is My Census Story.

The 1828 Census of NSW has always been a favourite research tool of mine. It was published by Sainty and Johnson of Library of Australian History in 1980. It was also one of the first expensive reference books I ever purchased.

Taken in November 1828, it was Australia’s first census and took place in November. Sadly this is the only complete census that has survived from the nineteenth century. The population at the time was 36,598 (20,870 free settlers + 15,728 convicts). The book also has some wonderful statistical information in the beginning including occupations, land holdings and descriptions of where the census was taken.

For my own research, I was able to locate a number of my ancestors in this informative census including John Pendergast (c.1760-1833) who arrived on the "Minerva" in 1800 and Jane Williams from the "Nile" 1801; Henry Warren (c.1801-1876) Aaron Pearce (c.1786-1849) plus Patrick Mannix (1766-1863) to name just a few.  

One unusual thing about the Census was some wrongly interpreted information about Charlotte, supposedly the daughter of John Pendergast and Jane Williams, and born in 1810. The presumption obviously came about due to the way the names were listed. James, a farmer, and his first wife Sophia Hancy or Hancey were living at Lower Portland with their young son. James and Sophia had married at Parramatta in May 1828, their son James was aged about one years.  

Transcribed from the 1828 Census of  NSW
Many people presumed, myself included, that Charlotte and Bridget born in 1810 were in fact twins, as did the census taker. Although a little information was located about my ancestor Sarah (1806-1873) and her younger sister, Bridget (1810-1885) in various sources - nothing could be found about the supposed twin, Charlotte. One day I came across some information about the Hancy sisters who married the Pendergast brothers, James and Thomas. Sophia and Elizabeth Hancy were daughters of William Hancy and Sarah MacDonald who had a large family including their younger daughter Charlotte born in 1810.  Despite there being 247 "Charlotte's" listed in the 1828 Census, Charlotte Hancy does not appear.  Charlotte Hancy is obviously the Charlotte listed at Lower Portland and was either visiting her sister or perhaps living with her when the census was taken. When this information was verified many researchers were contacted however many family trees still include Charlotte Pendergast.

The full list of John Pendergast and Jane Williams children are:

  • James (1803-1865) Hawkesbury m. I. Sophia Hancey II. Susannah Cunneen 
  • (stayed Windsor area)
  • Thomas (1805-1862) Windsor m. Elizabeth Hancey (eventually settled at 
  • Moonbah, nr Jindabyne)
  • Sarah (1806-1873) Hawkesbury m. I. Patrick Tunney II. John Lynch (Hawkesbury 
  • then Wollombi)
  • William (1808-1850 & m. Sarah Holland (stayed around Windsor)
  • Bridget (1810-1885) Hawkesbury & m. Patrick Reed (lived Lower Hawkesbury & Inverell area)

John Pendergast also had a son John (1800-1867) but he was born before Jane arrived and his mother is not confirmed. John m. I. Elizabeth Dwyer & II. Emma Taylor (they lived Campbelltown & then Cooma)

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

TROVE TUESDAY and Timothy Mannix

Ancestor Timothy Mannix arrived from Cork (Ireland) in Sydney as a steerage passenger on-board the "Blenheim" in November 1834. 

His father, Patrick (1766-1863) was a rope-maker who was convicted of cow stealing and sentenced for 7 years for his crime. He was transported to Australia on the "Earl St Vincent" in 1818. Patrick's wife Mary petitioned to join her husband and in 1834 travelled via the "Andromeda" arriving in September 1834. Patrick and Mary had about eleven children, but Mary was only accompanied by daughter Margaret on the voyage. Two months later Timothy apparently aged about 16 years, arrived. His occupation was listed as servant. A number of other young men, sons of convicts also arrived on this voyage.

His arrival was recorded in the Shipping Intelligence of the newspaper of the day, The Australian which is accessible on Trove

The Australian 18 November 1834 p. 2

Timothy Mannix married Bridget Tunney, daughter of Patrick Tunney and Sarah Pendergast, on 10 February 1841 at St. John's Church, Maitland. The couple made their home in Wollombi and had a large family

Several years later, Timothy appeared once more in the newspapers.  Timothy Mannix was held up by bushrangers at a "place called Deadman's Creek, on the Wollombi road" one afternoon in June 1843. "Two men armed with pistols stopped a man named Timothy Mannix...who was coming with a dray to Maitland, and robbed him of £2 18s in money, and a part of his rations; they then made off again into the bush. On reaching Maitland the man gave information of the robbery, and the police were immediately despatched in search of the robbers." 

Timothy died on 28 June 1887 at Wollombi and is buried in the local cemetery alongside his wife, Bridget. 

Grave of Timothy and Bridget Mannix, Wollombi Cemetery
Photo: M. Nichols 2016

Note there is a discrepancy with Timothy's year of birth ranging from 1803 to 1818. His death certificate and headstone give his age as 84 however this information was supplied by others.

Friday, 20 May 2016


John Leach, who was born in Hawarden Flint,Wales married Ann Moore in 1849 Brick Garth, Hougton Le Hole, Durham. John, a coal miner, had moved there for work. A few years later they migrated to Australia, sometime between 1855-1858, with their children Mary Ann and William. They stayed in Tasmania for several years where daughters, Rebecca and Sarah were born.

By the end of 1861 the Leach family had moved to the Newcastle area of NSW, renowned for its coal deposits and made their home in Wallsend. Four more sons were born William Thomas, my Great Grandfather John William, Ellis and Thomas (1867) named for his maternal grandfather. Tragedy struck the family when three of the Leach children died in the early 1860s and you can read more about their deaths in an earlier post. Sadly the patriarch John Leach, passed away on 23 October 1868 from the miner's lung disease, pyaemia. At the time Thomas was just over 18 months old.

West Wallsend Colliery, 1888. Courtesy State Records NSW

Another tragedy struck the family when 19 year old, Thomas was involved in a fatal colliery accident at the Wallsend Colliery on 23 October 1868.  Thomas had just knocked off work for the day and was coming out of the tunnel, leading his horse. It was reported in the Department of Mines, Annual report 1886 that he “was employed as a brakesman on a self acting incline in the Wallsend Colliery” and “was engaged in bringing some damaged skips up on the no. 1 tunnel to the surface" but was hit by some skips. The accident killed Thomas and Dr Tomlin who examined him, advised the death was caused by a "fracture of the skull, and must have been instantaneous." Numerous accounts of the accident appeared in Trove newspapers all over the country. The most in-depth coverage was from the Newcastle Morning Herald and the Maitland Mercury

Maitland Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser, 3 August 1886 p. 6 

The consequence was a collision and the infliction of a fatal injuries to the unfortunate young man. Thomas was killed instantly, as was his horse and another. Maitland District Coroner gave a verdict of ‘accidental’ to the death of Thomas Leach. 

Wallsend Colliery, Newcastle from the Australian Town & Country Journal 18 January 1890, p. 24

According to the Newcastle Morning Herald The jury considered all of the facts surrounding the incident and reported the following verdict:
That Thomas Leach died at the Wallsend Colliery on the 29 day of July 1886. We are of opinion that his death was accidentally caused by a collision between skips being driven by the deceased and several loaded skips coming in a contrary direction.We desire to express our opinion that sufficient care has not been used heretofore in the lowering of these loaded skips, and recommended that more stringent rules should be adopted by the colliery authorities in order to avoid future accidents.

Thomas was buried the same day at the Old Wallsend Cemetery and a headstone once marked his grave. This was possibly paid for by the colliery or a subscription from the local community. The inscription on his headstone was recorded, and states "What partings here we have. How hard they seem to come, but we have to part no more when we get safe at home."  Sadly the headstone no longer stands as this cemetery closed in 1896 and was apparently converted to parkland in the 1950s. Fortunately information from the headstones were recorded before removal. 

Tuesday, 17 May 2016


My Great Grandfather John William Leach (1862-1920) was one of seven children born to Welshman John Leach and his wife, Ann Moore who came from Durham. The family migrated to Australia in the mid-1850s and first settled in Tasmania for several years before moving to Wallsend near Newcastle, NSW by 1861. Three of John and Anne’s children lost their lives in early childhood in Wallsend and up until recently little was known of the details. Searching the historic newspapers on Trove has provided more information. 

The eldest child of John and Ann, William Thomas Leach died 8 April 1861 as a result of “Scald and Irritative Fever from the Effects of Scald on the constitution” according to the Coroner. He was seven years old and was buried in the Christ Church Burial Ground at Newcastle. 

Just over six months later, tragedy struck again. Eighteen month old Sarah suffered for two days with pneumonia before succumbing, on 30 November 1861 at Wallsend. She was buried the following day at Christ Church cemetery in Newcastle as the cemetery in Wallsend was not established until 1864.  

The Newcastle Chronicle 3 August 1864 p. 3 
Mary Ann Leach was born 17 December 1855 Brick Garth, Hetton-Le-Hole in Durham and travelled to the other side of the world with her parents. On 30 July 1864 Mary Ann was helping her mother Ann, with washing and hanging out the clothes. Her father, John Leach provided the following information at the inquest: He stated he was a miner living at Wallsend:
on Saturday, the day preceding, he saw the child on his return from work ; she was assisting her mother hanging out clothes. Afterwards deceased went to the creek to get some water, and he heard, ten or fifteen minutes afterwards, that deceased had fallen in. He went down to the creek, and with the assistance of a clothes prop managed to secure the body and bring it home.

She went to the nearby creek to collect water and accidentally fell in. Her little friend raised the alarm several minutes after and despite being rescued from the muddy water she passed away. The creek was about 9-10 feet in depth and a child’s hair net was found floating on arrival. Dr Pierce who arrived at the scene tried every method to “restore animation but without success” and he gave his opinion at the inquest that death was caused by phyxia from accidental drowning.  Mary Ann was only eight years old. She was buried at what is now called the old Wallsend. The children lay in unmarked graves. 

Death certificate of Mary Ann Leach 1864

Very sad circumstances for the family. But sadly there was more to come.